Wrong Qana Death Toll Still Being Reported

Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wrong Qana Death Toll Still Being Reported

(CNSNews.com) - A full week since the death toll in the Israeli air strike on the Lebanese town of Qana was revised -- reduced by one-half -- a number of news organizations are still reporting the original, inaccurate figure as fact.

Most glaring is the case of Reuters, whose "chronology" of the conflict was updated on July 30 to include the entry: "Lebanon says at least 54 civilians killed by air strike in the village of Qana. Lebanon cancels Rice visit." Reuters has sent out updated versions of the chronology at least seven times since then, but not one makes any reference to the subsequently revised death toll.

Early reports based on figures provided by Lebanese government officials said between 54 and 57 civilians, many of them children, were killed in the attack. In a statement to the Security Council that same day, U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan said "preliminary reports say that at least 54 people have been killed, among them at least 37 children."

Three days later -- on Wednesday, August 3, the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying 28 people had been killed, based on figures provided by the Lebanese Red Cross and a government hospital in Tyre.

But the inaccurate figure of 54 or more continues to appear in news reports, with no reference to the later revision.

On Friday, two days after the revised figure was published, the Guardian referred to "the air raid that killed up to 54 civilians in the village of Qana on Sunday," while the Kuwait Times said the attack "killed up to 54 civilians, Lebanese officials say."

On Sunday, Scotland's Sunday Herald repeated the figure of "at least 54 civilians."

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, Reuters described it as "the bombing that Lebanese reports said killed at least 54 people," and a report on the Canadian website Macleans.ca included the line "... last week, after Israeli bombs killed at least 54 civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana." The Turkish online newspaper Zaman also repeated the figure of 54.

On Wednesday, al-Jazeera's website carried a column by U.S. author Ramzy Baroud, who wrote that the air strike on Qana "killed scores, mostly children." (A "score" is 20.)

Also Wednesday, the Italian news site Ansa reported on papal calls for peace, and said Pope Benedict XVI "specifically referred to an Israeli air strike against the Lebanese town of Qana on July 30 which killed at least 54 civilians including 37 children."

News organizations were not alone in failing to report the new death toll days after the revision. On Tuesday, the Organization of the Islamic Conference released a statement saying OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu "condemned the carnage [at Qana] which had left some 60 people dead from amongst Lebanese civilians, including women and children."

Annan this week released a report to the Security Council on the Qana tragedy, saying that what occurred there may be part of a larger pattern of violations of international law during the conflict.

His report included letters from the Israeli and Lebanese governments. Israel said Hizballah used Qana as a regional headquarters. "It contains extensive weapons stockpiles, serves as a haven for fleeing terrorists, and is the source of over 150 missiles launched into northern Israel."

The Lebanese government said civilians had been unable to flee because of ongoing Israeli attacks and destroyed roads.

"None of the bodies recovered showed that there were militants mingled among the civilians, and the rescuers found no weapons in the building that was struck," it said.

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